by Brandon Jarvis

A Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor reported two $50,000 donations from Dominion Energy in the final weeks leading up to the Democratic primary election after previously pledging to not accept their money.

Del. Hala Ayala, like many Democrats in recent years, agreed to the Clean Virginia pledge to not accept money from Dominion in both 2019 and 2021. Now she is facing backlash from Clean Virginia for accepting $100,000 in the final days of the race from the utility giant that has bankrolled Virginia politicians for decades. 

“Del. Ayala’s actions are uniquely disappointing and deceptive – she has campaigned for statewide office on a promise to Virginians that she would hold polluting utility monopolies accountable and then accepted a massive contribution from Dominion Energy. That is not leadership — it is desperation,” said Clean Virginia’s Executive Director Brennan Gilmore.

In response to Ayala’s reversal on the pledge, Clean Virginia says they are launching a $125,000 digital ad campaign to “to ensure that voters across the Commonwealth are aware of this broken promise and the harmful effects of decades of Dominion’s legalized corruption on everyday Virginians.”

Ayala provided one statement Wednesday after the reports were made public. “Virginia voters need to know that I will always fight for Virginian families. Whether it was delivering on Medicaid expansion to give 500,000 Virginians access to affordable healthcare or protecting our drinking water from coal ash contamination, my decisions in elected office have always been based on what’s best for Virginia families, and as Lieutenant Governor, that’s exactly what I’ll keep doing.”

Sean Perryman, another candidate seeking the lieutenant governor nomination issued a sharp rebuke of the donation. “Delegate Ayala made a promise to voters that she would reject money from Dominion Energy,” Perryman said in a statement. “Not only is Ayala allowing her campaign to be bought by Dominion, her campaign didn’t reveal this fact until six days before the election, leaving little time for voters to know of her broken promise.”

Perryman continued to address the entire campaign finance system in Virginia that allows unlimited donations to politicians, unlike the federal laws that cap individual donations to candidates at $2,900 each federal election. “Now that we’ve seen the latest round of finance reports, that statement has shown to be even more true,” he said. “While some candidates take giant checks from special interests and wealthy donors, others are using their generational wealth to burn hundreds of thousands of dollars of their own cash. All of it is an attempt to purchase an election.”

There were over 540,000 votes cast in the Democratic primary the year after Trump was elected. Statewide campaigns are expecting a much lower turnout for this year’s primary due in part to Trump being out of office. Over 75,000 voters have already cast their ballots due to Virginia’s new early voting laws, meaning the Dominion news is irrelevant for a rather large portion of potential primary voters. 

The other candidates in the race have not commented on the donation. Besides Ayala and Perryman, Del. Sam Rasoul, Norfolk City Councilor Andria McClellan, Del. Mark Levine, and Xavier Warren are vying for the nomination that will be decided in the June 8th primary.

Virginia Scope is an independent news publication that is funded largely by donations and subscribers. As local newsrooms are losing writers each day, we are trying to fill the void to ensure that the public is informed and that leaders are held accountable for their actions. If you can chip in a monthly subscription of whatever you can afford, even $1, it will go a long way to helping us. Subscribe here. You can also make a one-time donation below:

By vascope